Discovering Trail Running and Climbing during lockdown
A sanctuary of green spaces between the knitted crochet blanket of terrace houses, steep houses and leafy green neighbourhoods; lockdown in Sheffield ain’t a grim place to be. A time to pause, stay at home and root in one place with my new housemate Hilary, a fellow Trad climber, trail runner and cycling enthusiast in a part of Sheffield I’ve not lived before.
Yet for so many, myself included, lockdown has been a mixed bag of emotions. I’ve found it a difficult and somewhat overwhelming time.
After shaking off the endless ‘bank holiday feeling’, a positive outcome I noticed is that I’ve found that I’ve been able to work through a whole list of things to sort, from repairing old kit, re-proofing tents, potting some plants, feeding a sourdough starter. I’ve noticed that lockdown has influenced the way I’ve been keeping myself busy. Physical activities that keep my mind and body moving, that keep me away from too much screen time reap a sense of satisfaction and joy in the unexpected end result. As The BMC announced their plans to allow some form of climbing back onto the agenda, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve discovered, picking up a new affection for trail running, and revisiting a few local spots for climbing.
Following recommendations, staying local and well within one’s limit is the rule of thumb, I’ve relished the opportunity to look through my bag and dig out my well-thumbed guidebooks and explore routes that I’ve been meaning to get ticked. Nothing too pushy, just classic routes in a local radius, coupled with wanting to keep at least ‘crag fit’ and work towards ‘mountain fit’ in due course.
Trail running, however, has been liberating, giving me the freedom to move and explore a bit more of the local area I wouldn’t normally consider. I’ve discovered a multitude of circuits – there’s one that takes us near the post office and weaves it way through a relatively placid residential areas, past a few grumpy Shetland horses before the familiar signs of public footpath lead to a luscious mixed woodland, full of silver birch trees and ash trees welcoming me into their green ceiling canopy.
There’s the run which goes through more open fields and farmland- a route I think of as the ‘Yorkshire tea’ route, reminiscent of the little illustration on a box of tea, with patches of fields and no roads in sight and lambs dotted around. It’s one of my favourite trails to run, as it weaves it across the countryside keeping relatively high and in rural pastures, in the outlying Bradfield parish. It’s local to me, and it’s not too long – perfect for when I want to feel as though I need a change of scenery, away from the close environment of being at home.
Since lockdown, one of the measures to gauge how far away from civilisation I am has been to roughly look over my shoulder and see if it’s far away enough from the tower blocks in Stannington. Staying local is the order of the day, and starting out in trail running means that whilst I’m not quite running long distances yet, I’m slowly trying to pick up ‘good habits’ and run more regularly to build some cardio fitness into my week.
Living in Sheffield just outside of the national park, lockdown has given me an abundance of curiosity to discover a whole new area. A playground of wonderfully smooth tarmacked roads, free of potholes and traffic, footpaths that magically emerge as if from out of dry stone walls, and stretches of undisturbed woodland. The air is scented with pollen, the heady coconut-like smell of gorse bushes in bloom, their egg yolk clumps dotting the countryside with pops of colour. A rose-gold coloured line of terrace houses mark out the invisible lines between suburbia and countryside. The sight of animals in pasture, a corrugated box perched outside of a farm selling free-range local eggs. The sound of birdsong, suddenly deafening now that it’s uninterrupted, second only to the sound of the wind as it whistles through the trees. The simple act of noticing all the little things makes all the difference.
The further out of the city one gets, the houses with rainbows on homemade laminated signs and handwritten chalked doodles start to peter out and the more official signposts informing us that we are no longer in the ‘City of Sheffield’ and entering the ‘Parish of Bradfield. ’ If you look closely on the signposts there are some rather twee enamelled signs signposting to ‘Easy Going Trail’ as a concerned reminder that as a resident of Sheffield, so that one really shouldn’t be finding the mildly gruelling ascent too difficult!
Running through these areas, I’m mindful that these are relatively isolated areas which must be treated with caution. In my bid to be conscious in my choices and privileges of living in the area, I try and find paths that I’ve not explored, and mark on an old OS map a new footpath I’ve discovered with a highlighter, and try to avoid venturing to ‘popular spots’ on busy weekends, and savour these locations on colder, and hopefully less busy weekdays.
Kit wise, I’ve been using my VIA Gecko Vest, which has felt like a liberating joy – plenty of pockets, to stow everything from a house key to a phone with Strava on, and a neat little stretchy pocket that fits a spare layer and even a film camera! I’ve been wearing the long sleeve Blade top that’s breathable and lightweight, and the Claw shorts.
Whilst climbing will no doubt be something I will in due course revisit, my appetite to go back and tick easy routes still there – trail running will keep me busy and keen to explore lesser trodden, less well explored footpaths to keep sane during this strange and challenging time.